Saturday, March 31, 2012

Calm Before

It's almost April!

When the heck did that happen?

In about a month it will be May and in May I will have been without my love for 5 years.

Blows my mind.

At this time 5 years ago, he had just surprised me with a 2 week R&R from Iraq.

On April 9th I would kiss him goodbye...and now, 5 years later, I have to wait a bit longer than expected for one more...but, on the brink of this "milestone", my heart is quiet, my eyes dry, and my pride and love for him at an all time high.

It could be the calm before some storm....but it may not.

You never know.

In the past it has been the anticipation leading up to the date that is the most miserable, and I think, for once, I'm pulling up my sails, throwing on the life jacket, and ready to ride this storm...and I know I can survive it.

I don't know where time has gone, but in the nearly five years I've seen the pain and suffering be replaced with contentment and smiles. There were times where I didn't want to accept that that was feasible, but now I'm proud to know I've been able to do so...for him...for me.

I wish I had more to say or share, but there's just calm right now...balance...and sometimes I don't quite know what to do without, other than just accept it for whatever time being, and keep the rain coat tucked away for another day.

I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship.
- Louisa May Alcott

Friday, March 30, 2012

This Life

Six and a half years ago the worst thing happened. I wasn't prepared, I had never imagined (who does I guess?), and even if I did spend anytime pondering what life would be like if my 39 year old husband was hit and killed by a car, I still wouldn't have dreamed up the life that has come after that worst moment.

I could not have imagined the brutal pain of waking up in an empty bed.

I could not have imagined picking up the phone to call him, over and over again...I would have guessed that eventually I'd figure out that he wasn't going to answer.

I could not have imagined six years after his death STILL thinking I saw him standing on a street corner.

I could not have imagined how my heart would break when I read what one of my children would later write about that day, or the ways in which his death would change their lives.

I could  not have imagined being surrounded by other widowed people. And if I did imagine such a thing I am sure I would have expected us to all be sharing kleenex instead of laughter.

I could not have imagined telling my story in front of hundreds of people or the tightness in my chest that would accompany that storytelling each and every time. I would have imagined getting used to the words, that somehow saying them over and over would make them lose their power.

But more than any other thing I could not imagine on the day that my love died, I could never have imagined the friends I would make as I put the pieces of my shattered life back together. My widowed community changed my life. I wouldn't be who I am today without the people I have met along the way. They inspire me. They encourage me. They lift me up, and also anchor me to this world. The one I am left with now. The one that is more beautiful than I could ever have imagined 2,402 days ago.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Past Tense

The last two days, I have been missing Jer more than usual. I'm not sure why - perhaps all the chaos and excitement of getting engaged and keeping insanely busy, I tend to push aside my grief. But his smile has been fresh in my mind and my ache for him has been very raw.

Yesterday, I went downstairs to workout on the treadmill (I have a wedding dress to fit into!). I was looking for something to watch on TV and saw that The Patriot was on. I thought "I haven't seen this in awhile, I'll watch the rest of it." Big mistake. All it took was one scene of two men walking, referencing one's deceased daughters. "I'm sure your girls were lovely." (or something like that) "Yes, they were." And I was a puddle of tears.

Were. What is it with those past tense words?! It's so hard to really grasp what that entails when you're talking about someone you love more than anything no longer being here. Almost 17 months later, and I still can't get used to it. Hearing the character refer to his daughters in past tense made me sob uncontrollably on my treadmill. I was thinking 'get a grip' but I couldn't. The pain of knowing someone you love will never fill up space in the world again is a sickening realization.

Last week, I took my daughter on her first field trip. We went to learn about how maple syrup is made. Now, if you knew anything about Jeremy, you'd know he was a proud Canadian who LOVED maple syrup. His uncle and now his cousins make their own and sell it. I was excited to take Faith and somehow tangibly connect her with her daddy and something he loved. But I also remember listening to the tour guide tell us all this random information about how to recognize maple trees, and the process of making syrup, and subconsciously storing the information to impress Jeremy with later. Then that stupid word popped in my head....was. He's not here anymore. I can't see the smile on his face when I show him my interest in learning about maple syrup, even if I don't eat it. Or perhaps surprise him with some information he didn't already know (which would have been highly unlikely). Jeremy now lives in the past tense. And I can't get my brain to accept that.

I still catch myself on a regular basis, saying 'is' instead of 'was.'' I have figured out this day to day thing on my own, it makes sense to me now and I've gotten used to it, but I still can't accept that it's forever. I have so much to tell him, so much to share, so many inside jokes he'd appreciate, so many years of him knowing me like no one else has and wanting to share pieces of my heart I've stored up for him. Knowing I can't is heartbreaking every single time I remember it.

I guess I just have to pray that when the day comes when I get to see him face to face again, I won't forget anything.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Silence Kills .....

                                                 picture from here

Once again, I am stunned that my choice of topic for today's post was also the topic in Amanda's post yesterday.
I promise you, by all that is holy, we NEVER contact the other writers and talk about our topics.  Never have.  Never will.
It is what it is.

I wish I had a nickel for every widow who's asked me, "How do you get your teenage sons to talk?"
I'd have a whole lotta nickels.

My answer .... every single time:  "You don't."
Not exactly what those women wanted to hear, but again .... it is what it is.

From the first minute I came home from the hospital and climbed into bed with first one son, and then the other, and gave them the news they never thought they'd hear ..... I've told them to talk.
I've asked them to talk.
I've begged them to talk.
I may have even threatened them to talk (though I doubt that).
I've cried while begging.
I've gotten angry while asking.
I've turned blue in the face while talking.

And none of it did any good.
At least, not on the surface.  I have no idea what's going on deep down inside of them.
But I never gave up.

And fortunately, or not, one of my sons agreed to go to counseling with me last week.
For the first time ever.  By the first child ever.
And it went well.
In my opinion.

I said "unfortunately" because for this child to agree to see someone, he had to have a complete and violent meltdown.
And he did.
And he saw that the anger that he showed was not caused by what he thought he was angry about, but because of one thing:
He has a dead father.

I know that all three of my sons have stuffed and stuffed and stuffed their grief down until there's not much room for anything else.
And when there's not much room ..... something's going to give.
And it won't be pretty when it happens.

So what's my point here if I can't give you the secret of making boys talk?
I guess it's just this:  Never, ever, ever, ever give up.
Because silence kills.
It might not always kill a person, but there are other things inside of a person that can be killed.
Never give up.

And keep your eyes and ears open.
And be prepared.
Because one day ..... maybe tomorrow, maybe in 5 years ..... one day something will give.
And you'll be needed to help clean up the mess .... and to remember that when that moment happens, it's not because he's mad at what he's think he is.
It's because he has a dead father (or mother).
And that sucks.
No matter how much time has gone by.

P.S.  A point was made in a comment that I forgot to include here, but meant to.  I apologize.  This "silence" is not limited to boys.  I think that, over all, boys are less likely to discuss their feelings, but our daughters need to be encouraged just as much sometimes.  Being silent is not limited to gender.  Ask them, girls or boys, and keep asking.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


headache on 365 Project

I am sad today.
I just heard news of another new widow ... this one, with a little more sting than most.
You see, her son died a month ago. 
He was 21.
But there was worse to come.....

Her husband could not cope with his grief and instead of speaking about it, he ended his own life instead.

This leaves another new widow and a teenager without two people in their family.

....and it makes me want to scream for them.

...and echo the words of Lori Dwyer, when she told the men at the funeral of her husband to SPEAK dammit.
Speak about the pain.
Speak about your feelings.
Speak about your suicidal thoughts.
Speak to someone.
Because, as Lori also points out .... the world is not "better off without you".

Grief is hard, intense, dark and frightening.  If can make your mind go to places it has never been before.

But the "alternative" ... well it isn't really an alternative is it?  It is an exit from the world and it just exponentially multiplies the pain for those that are left to pick up the pieces.

So if you are reading this, grieving so hard that you think there is an "alternative", please, PLEASE  

International Suicide Prevention Wiki:

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Grief is HEAVY

from here

I woke up yesterday with dread and sadness hovering around me like a damp, gray cloud even as a sunny blue sky emerged from the sunrise. Maybe I dreamed of something that got me going, I don't know. It was probably just the good old grief monster moving in for the morning. Every moment of every day is tinged with grief, but some days the grief takes over completely.

It feels so heavy. I actually feel a physical weight on my shoulders, pinning me to the earth. It forces me down until I feel like pasting myself to the floor to brace for the onslaught.

Once the tears started, I couldn't stop them and just writing about the way that feels makes my eyes fill up again. I cried for hours and began to mentally cancel plans. Yoga would have to wait. I was crying too hard to get dressed. And besides, I would've been too embarrassed to go in that condition. No amount of makeup could conceal the state I was in.

Suddenly, though, two women I'd forgotten I'd promised to go to yoga with simultaneously texted me and my dear widowed friend called me. As I talked to her and continued to sob, I got dressed. Once I hung up with her, the tears finally stopped. Once I was fully dressed, hair done and makeup on, I felt stronger and though the tears threatened a few times during yoga, I had a wonderful session and was left with the lovely exhaustion and peace that yoga practice brings me.

I realized that while it would have been completely understandable to stay curled in a ball on the floor of my place all day, I didn't because of those women. Three women who don't all know each other contacted me at the exact same time and without knowing it, pulled me from the sucking blackness of that morning.

I know that it is healthy to feel the grief and that numbing myself and avoiding the pain will only put it off till later, but sometimes what I need is someone else expecting me to show up. I need the pull of the outside world to counteract the pull of the sadness. I need to be outside, among others, moving, interacting, pushing, pushing, pushing myself through the fear of living.

Though I needed a nap later to counteract the crying headache I'd earned from that morning, I didn't cancel my plans for the evening, either, and thank God I didn't. I went with a dear friend to Mt. Hood and had the most fun I've had in a long while, barreling down a snowy hill on an inner tube with her.
I laughed until I peed a little.

Grief is exhausting. It's terrifying. While it has to be experienced, it takes its toll on me and I need to feel the opposing pull of life. Sometimes I still need someone to literally or figuratively pull me off the floor, wipe my tears, hug me close and push me out the door, reminding me that there's still life to be lived and people to love. All of it risks more loss, but the bigger loss would be missing out on all of it, pinned to my floor with the weight of my losses.

Writing this has started the tears again. The weight of my sadness is pressing down on me and curling up on the floor sounds good, but I'll pick myself up in a few minutes and get dressed because someone expects me to show up later this morning, and I have life to live.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Earthquakes and Aftershocks

           I stand helpless as the first thing I see fall is the painting that hung over the mantel.  The sound of the windows rattling grows and the ground beneath my feet tries harder and harder to make me fall down.  One by one, knick knacks start to tip over and roll off shelves, falling to the ground and smashing into pieces – too much damage for even Humpty Dumpty’s men to put back together again.  I resist my gut instinct to try and catch the falling pieces, I don’t know which part of this room will start falling apart next, and I could get hurt if I don’t keep my eyes open.  Better wait until the shaking stops.

            The small table with a lamp on it is shaking, and it’s even money whether the table tips, taking the lamp (a lamp I’ve carried around with me since I was a kid and all of the good memories I associate with it), to the ground, joining the other broken knick knacks.  As I watch the bottom of the lamp start to weave back and forth like a top, the shaking stops.  However, some objects still love finishing the course of momentum, and then they too become still. “It’s over.”  I say to myself and look around the room.  There will be plenty of clean up.  This will be longer than a weekend project, and it is abundantly clear that even after the cleaning is over, this room will never look the same.

            I’ve worked on rebuilding the room for quite some time now, and although not thrilled at the parts of my room that I’ve lost, I am starting to accept my new normal of this layout.  I even moved the lamp to a bigger table that sits right below a shelf of my favorite books.  It’s different, but I’m dealing with different.  I sit in my chair and try to acclimate myself to all of the changes.  That’s when an aftershock comes and shakes the room.  It’s a small aftershock, lasts for only a few seconds, and not strong enough to rattle the windows or shake my lamp - which my eyes go to immediately. But what I didn’t realize is; during the first earthquake, the shaking of the room loosened my book shelf so much, almost all the brackets came out of the wall.  It was only being held by one small screw.  The aftershock loosened that screw, and the shelf, with all of the books on it, comes crashing down on my lamp, destroying it into pieces.

            Last week my wife’s step-father passed away.  He fought a really good fight.  Back in 1992, he was involved in a bad car accident.  Doctors thought he wouldn’t make it. He recovered, moved out to Arizona, and even though he had an array of health issues, lead an active life and lived for what ended up being another 30 years.

            If he had died before Lisa, I probably would have been less sympathetic. “Well, he should have never survived anyway, so good for him.”  But I’ve already had an earthquake, and he was an aftershock.

            When I heard the news of his passing, the first thing I did was equate him to Lisa’s death.  Experiencing an aftershock always brings me back to thoughts of the earthquake.  So after beating myself up that Lisa is gone and reliving all the “ should’ve, would’ve, could’ves”, I  put into perspective what his death means to others.  I think of his new wife, who has been care giving for many years.  How will she deal with her new life’s routine?  I think about his 102 year-old mother who is still alive – yes, still alive -and living in his house.  She will not handle it well, but her lack of memory will cure some of that pain.  Then of course, I think of Lisa’s sister, Andrea.

            She had quite a year in 2008.  She lost her mother in April and then lost her sister in July.  I’m sure there are people who heard the news of the death of Andrea’s father  and thought, “Sad, but at least he was older and lived longer than he should have.”  I myself would have probably been one of those people, if I hadn’t lost my Lisa.  But now I know that even though this is an aftershock for her, she is sitting in her room looking at more pieces that have fallen and is faced, once again, with looking to redesign another new normal.

Saturday, March 24, 2012



I just have to write it out.

This feeling.

This vibration running through my veins.

It may only last a little while. Who knows. I may wake in the morning and it be gone.

But right now...

As my fingers push each button to capture this moment in time.

It's perfect.

It's as if he's sitting across the table from me, with his warm and kind smile greeting me, and his heart reminding me that ours beat as one, and Clair de lune plays in the background, and I know, as I stare at the empty chair in front of me...he is not there....but he is.

We are.

I am.

I know the song will end...I can not stop it.

But right now...I will let myself be enveloped by this reminder that even after the most tragic of circumstances...even when life proves that it will and can go on in the most beautiful of non-explanatory of patterns...I will feel it...

Feel as if I did when my lips met his.

Feel as if I did when he stood right next to me holding my hand.

Feel as if the world was ours to conquer.

And I'll remember that it is.

And that he's still holding my hand.

And even when his lips can meet mine no more....

I'll be reminded of it's feeling for eternity...

Empowered by it.

And the moment that sparked it all will fade,

and yet something in my heart reminds me that I can.

I will.

I must...

Live to feel it when it strikes me once the most random time....and place....but always with the notion that it is he that causes it...he that allows me to find the beauty of life.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Message in a Dream

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.” – Calvin & Hobbes

Night before last I dreamed about Maggie. It has been a long, long time since I’ve seen her – in person or otherwise. Even in my dream, rich emotions were quickly whipped up. Let me set the stage.

In my dream, we were traveling with a group of friends. The one and only scene in which she played a role involved her sitting at a table or couch, surrounded by friends while she animatedly told a story. (Such a scene wasn’t unusual; she always had LOTS to say and was almost always the center of everyone’s attention. And she was ALWAYS animated!) In this one and only scene, she never even looked at me or acknowledged my presence. In the dream, this wasn’t odd. (Dreams are very odd ducks.)

When I saw her in my dream, a deep feeling overwhelmed me that I now struggle to describe. The feeling definitely wasn’t sadness but, instead, euphoria but way more basal or primal than that specific word implies. The only way I can possibly describe the feeling was as if my heart had long been locked tightly in a cramp. Then, very suddenly upon seeing her – the way she moved, the way she spoke, the way she just… was – my heart instantly and completely relaxed. It was like the day we first met when my soul said, “Ah, there you are. I’ve been looking for you.” This time, my soul added, “God, I’ve missed you.”

Euphoric or not, I knew instinctively that she was upset with me because I was obsessing over the pictures that I was taking while we were traveling. I had spent hours pouring over this or that photo worried that it didn’t capture the scene like I thought it should. Some photos were too dark. Some photos were off center. One specific photo I remember all too well was very washed out and didn’t capture clearly her face like I wanted it to. In addition to pouring over failed photos, I was trying to stage and re-take more. Yup, I was obsessing. And she was unhappy with me. She wanted me to put down the photos and just be a part of the trip with everyone else.

(It’s funny how without a single word could tell exactly why my lovely wife was upset with me!) (And, just for the record, she was rarely upset with me.) (And just for another record, God, I wish she had said anything… ANYTHING to me!)

I’ve pondered that silly dream for many hours now but my interpretation hasn’t changed since the second I woke up. The message is simple and clear: a life spent focused on trying to keep memories alive is a life spent living in the past. Living in the past tends to keep us from appreciating what’s going on right here, right now. And it’s really hard to see and smell roses when you walk down the path of life facing backwards.

I hear you, Maggie. I’ll keep pushing forward. It’s time to breath new life into the Business of Change.

(P.S. And, uh, Maggie, if you appear in my dreams again, could you please at least say hi or even have a conversation with me?  It'd be real nice.  And can we, uh, have some, you know… *cough* “adult” time?)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I'm Engaged!

I'm sure that's not what you were expecting from my second post as the newest widow to the scene! And while I will take plenty of time to talk about my journey through grief and the pieces of it I still face on a day to day bases, I want to also share the pieces of my life that are happening now. And to share a story of hope and healing.

I won't dive into everything on this one post, cause there's no way I'd be able to share all the ways God has been working this story into my life, or the way Steve (my fiance) has helped me discover a place I never thought I'd see again. You can read more about our journey on my personal blog but just know that there is so much purpose in our relationship and how our paths have crossed each others.

The second reason I wanted to share this news with y'all, besides just wanting you to get to know me, is to share the AMAZING way that Steve proposed to me, and the perfect way that it combined my past with my future.

First of all, I am very hard to surprise. Probably because I'm nosey. Steve totally threw me off and surprised me with this one, and had my closest friends all in on it. To throw me off, my best friend made up a story that she had a photo shoot in the morning, but her car broke down so she needed me to pick her up. So off I went to Stony Creek Metropark to pick her up. But when I found her, she asked me to get out of the car and take a walk with her. I thought Steve was driving that day to Michigan, not knowing he was already there, but as soon as I saw a red rose on my best friend's car, I knew. She handed me the rose, told me how much she loved me, took my arm, and started walking. We walked a 2 mile path - yes, crazy long! But every 200 yards or so I was met with another rose being held by some of the most important people in my life. People who have stood next to me while I suffocated in grief, people who clung to me when I fighting to find purpose in life, who watched me go through my darkest hours, and people who have supported my new relationship with Steve. And as each person gave me a rose, they also walked me down the path to the next person while reading a letter about what I meant to them. WOW. If the tears weren't flowing hard enough (thank GOODNESS it was sunny and I was wearing sunglasses!) I walked with my best friends, Steve's parents, my family, and finally...Jeremy's family.

When I saw Jeremy's mom and sister in the distance, my knees almost gave out. I know that not everyone has a great relationship with their in-laws, but I cannot find words to describe how grateful I am to have married into such a wonderful family. They are my family, and their support as they gave their daughter-in-law a blessing to marry another man other than their son spoke to my heart in ways that I can't explain. I know it can't be easy. I know it faces them with grief they probably weren't expecting - I know it has for me. But there they were, supporting me and rooting for my happiness.

It was the hardest I've cried in a really long time. But my tears turned to pure joy when I saw this adorable, handsome, very nervous, all dressed up and sweating in the heat, precious man waiting for me at the end of the long path. This man that loves me for all that comes with me, accepts and encourages my still very strong love for my dead husband, loves my children, loves God, and whose character makes me want to be better. This man who grabbed my heart very quickly and who has very carefully held all the broken pieces of it and continues to help me put it back together. But also a man I cherish for all he comes with, for all he's been through, and for all he has become because of it. This man whose daughters have taken over my heart.

Our engagement will be a very short one. But I'm so thankful our stories have come together in such a way that it can only be a testament to God's grace and love. I'm thankful to have found someone Jeremy would approve of (he and Steve were friends, in fact) and who has proven to be someone I can't wait to share life with. I feel very blessed to have found two such men in my lifetime.

Oh, and he gave me this!!!

To Keep Writing is .....

                                                  photo from here

.... to show that you are not making progress on this path?
That means that every one of the writers for Widow's Voice is still struggling to grow, to find "healing", to move forward in life?

Every time one of our writers decides that it's time for them to step down, to stop writing, many comments are made congratulating them on being able to move on with their life.  They are told that they are growing because they see that it's time to leave and move on.

These comments have made me ponder.  Quite a bit.
My husband died over 4 years ago.
I am in such a better place than I was 2 years ago ..... I love my life and I love the love in my life.  Of course there will always be the pain of losing Jim .... of him not being here, but there are no longer the black days of grief.  And I thank God for that.  I lived through more black days than I thought were possible to survive.

But now I'm in a good place.  A great place really.
I have grieved hard and I have moved forward.  I feel like I found my "before me", at least, most of her .... and have been able to blend her in with the "after me".
I am happy.
I am content.

And yet I still write on this blog.
Why continue to post here, especially if some people see that as being unable to move forward?

Well, that's easy.
I write because I care.
I write because the passion in my life at this point is to support other widowed people, to share experiences with them and to encourage them.

My passion is to let each widow/widower know that she/he is NOT alone on this path.  To let them know that they are not crazy, nor are they grieving the "wrong way" just because their timing is different than someone else's.  Or their timing is different from what their friends think it should be.  You know .... non-widowed friends.  It's always very interesting how many varied opinions and advice you get from non-widowed friends.

My passion is to let you know that the fact that you can't remember a conversation that took place less than 24 hours ago, does not mean you are going crazy, or insane, or losing touch with reality.  My passion is to tell you that losing your memory is very, very normal.  Most people don't know that.  I didn't.  And I didn't have anyone tell me otherwise.  So of course I thought I was a victim not only of widowhood, but of Alzheimer's, too.  That's enough to make someone go insane!  :)

My passion is to tell you that there are NOT 5 neat stages of grief.  That book wasn't even written about widowed people.  Grief is not neat and orderly.  It's messy .... and there's no order to it.
And you are very normal when you are angry one week .... and then angry again a month later.

My passion is to tell you that grief does not have a time line.  You may decide to take your rings off within a week of the funeral.  Or you may be 8 years out and still wear them.  That is normal.
You may have cleaned out your spouse's closet within the first month.  Or you may never clean it out.
You are normal.

That, and only that, is why I still write.
To let you know that you're not alone, you're not crazy, you're not grieving "wrongly", and that you need to do things/make decisions when it feels right to do/make them.  And only when it feels right .... to you.

I am not stuck in my grief.
I am not "not ready" for this new point in my life.
I am not "not moving forward".

I am fulfilling my passion.
And when I feel it's time for me to stop sharing that with you ..... I will stop.
When it feels right to me.
My writing is not an indicator of where I am in my grief.
It just shows that I want to support you in the only way I can.  By sharing my experiences with you, sharing the sometimes ugly truth, to let you know that life does get better.  That your grief will be easier to carry in the future because you will grow stronger.

So I hope you don't think we're all stuck here .... on this site and in our grief.
Because that is so very far from the truth.
We love connecting with you and encouraging you.
And we will all stop when our time is right to stop.  For whatever reason.
But hopefully, not for a while.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


They leak out of my eyes and run down my face in small rivers.
I am now used to their comings and goings;
they are unbidden at times,
whilst at other times they are triggered by a memory.
... by a song.

Sometimes they fall from my face in a gushing waterfall to wet my blouse
or fall to the floor at my feet,
while other times they dry on my cheeks leaving their faint trace of salt.

They are like a nosy neighbour -
if you don't let them in every so often, they catch you off guard when you'd rather they left you alone....
I know them too well. 

They have haunted me lately, often waking me from sleep,
or unleashing in the shower, late at night when I am finally alone.
.... but not wanting to be alone... 
 needing him to be HERE with me.
Where I can rest my head on his chest and finally exhale.

Monday, March 19, 2012


 The fridge of an anal compulsive. The magnets match. The edges line up. If you come over and mess it up, I'll wait till you're not looking and make it perfect again.

I've always used control as a way to try to hold things together. Attempting to control my environment, my life, has been a little like keeping all the delicate pieces of a shattered eggshell together. It's so easy to lose focus and allow the pieces to fall apart. And once that happens, who knows how I'll ever be able to fit all those fragments together again!

It's reflected in my physical environment. I like things just so. Living with another human being for as long as I did helped me learn some flexibility with this one, but now that I live alone again, my drive for order and neatness has resurfaced, full force. There is just something about my space getting cluttered and messy that makes me feel out of control. The moment I can get the clutter under control, I feel myself relax. All is right because that which I actually have direct control over is under control.
And wow, how helpful it's been to have everything lined up just perfectly. Obviously, the fact that every drawer is perfectly organized has really made life so easy for me! hasn't been so easy. Oh.

It shows itself when I leave my home. I compulsively go over a list in my head that ensures that nothing terrible happens while I'm gone. Stove? Off. Candle? Extinguished. Door? Locked. Sometimes I head back to my door after walking away, to try the lock, just in case I forgot to lock it. I can't fully relax until I've convinced myself that, when the tragedy comes, at least it won't be directly my fault. I imagine that the next terrible tragedy is around the corner, waiting for me. All of this has been really effective in warding off terrible events. Oh, wait. Dave died anyway. Huh.

It reveals itself in my relationships. There is a part of me, always readied to shut down in anticipation of abandonment or rejection. I replay things I've said and done in the company of others and try to pinpoint the behavior of mine that will end up being the final straw for them and cause them to reject me. I give people I really like being with "off ramps" as my good friend has termed it. Off ramps are when you give someone lots of chances to do what you are just waiting for them to do eventually, anyway, which is reject you. It works like this. Instead of saying to someone "You and me. We're spending some time together soon. So there," I am more likely to say "Do you want to hang out? I understand if you're too busy, so it's fine if you can't." There's your off ramp to make it easy for you to say no, because I expect rejection anyway. The lovely part of this one is that I probably come off seeming disinterested when, in reality, I'm so interested that I'm afraid of being rejected. That might not be working so well for me. Hmmm...

So, if these super rational and productive ways of life aren't helping me and in fact are making me a little bit cuckoo, why do I keep doing them? I think I've struck upon the reason. Of course, part of it is that they're ingrained. Everyone knows how hard a habit is to break. But the other reason is that when I can't control something (life), I desperately search for something I can control, and direct my energies to doing so.

Little by little, I'm learning to let go of the death grip I have on my eggshell. I'm watching the pieces fall apart and noticing that the world didn't end when they did. I've watched as people didn't reject me outright (or if they did, I was better off without their influence in my life anyway). I've watched as I jumped into the unknown and uncontrolled world of this new life of mine and I didn't fall flat on my face. I landed relatively gracefully and carried on. Even when the pieces were all over the place, never to be put back together in the same configuration again.

We can't control a damn thing and when we think we can, it's an illusion, anyway. It may feel comforting to control little details, but these rituals don't ward off bad things.

I'll probably always prefer a zen, orderly home. I'll probably always fear rejection. I'll probably always check my stupid lock three times before I leave. But all of that was true of me before tragedy struck and my life as I knew it was completely upended. Lots of help THAT was!

To that end, I will make an effort every damn day to let go of some of the unhelpful control and let the pieces fall where they may. Let love in. Let mess in. Let risk in.

There's something strangely freeing in knowing that the shit will hit the fan no matter what I do, so I might as well loosen up and free up some space in my life to just enjoy the ride as much as possible.

Just don't judge me if I line up the books on my coffee table so their edges are perfectly parallel with the table. It makes me feel better.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lord of the Widow Ring

Deep in the far away land of Mordor, stands Widow Mountain.  Four hundred years ago a Hobbit traveled to this mountain and climbed to the top.  There he found a volcano, and in the memory of his deceased wife, forged a widow ring.  This ring, when worn, possesses great powers to the widow/widower. 
Then, in a series of events - too long to explain and wouldn’t make sense if I did anyway - the ring found its way to Niles, Il, where a young man found the ring right after his wife passed away from breast cancer.  He is, Lord of the Widow Ring.

            So I posses this widow ring and I don’t know whether I should keep it or trek across to Widow Mountain and throw it back in the volcano, where there – and only there –  it can be destroyed (for reasons too long to explain and wouldn’t make sense if I did anyway).  The reason I hesitate to destroy my ring is, I can’t tell if this ring is a curse or my best friend.  When I put it on, I can feel the power of being the widower.  I can be at a family gathering and right in the middle of dinner, get up, knock over a lamp, take the last cookie on the cookie tray, walk out, and head off to the movies – leaving my children for someone to take home and put to bed.  “He’s going through a lot. It’s good he went to a movie, he needs a break,” they would say, justifying my actions while they put my kids in their car to take to their home.
            Without my widow ring, I would be at a store, knock over a lamp, cut in line at the register, and open a bag of candy without paying.
“How rude.” They would say and stare.
“That man has no manners.” They would whisper. 
“Come with me please.” The police would say.
            Can you see my dilemma?  Without the ring, I have to act like everyone else.  With the ring, I don’t always have to explain my actions; others would justify them for me.   No brainer, keep the ring right?  Wear it whenever I feel like making an excuse for my downfalls.  Not to mention, this ring is really difficult to get.  Married people can’t use them.  You know why?  Because married people have what they call “spouses” that renders the power of this ring useless. Example: 
“What are you doing? Why aren’t you cutting the lawn?” the wife asks.
“I’m playing video games,” says husband.  “I was going to cut the lawn but I am feeling emotionally down.  I need this to gather my thoughts.”
“Get up and cut the lawn now.”
“Oh yeah, look what I have.  A magic ring that allows me to do what I want and you will justify my actions.”
“It doesn’t work on you, you’re married.  Get off your ass and cut the lawn.”
“Stupid  Hobbit.  I paid $100 for this thing.”
I never thought I would miss having my wife telling me how full of crap I am or when my actions were out of line, but I do.  Losing a spouse is deeper than losing love.  I needed her to keep me honest, to challenge and get the best out of me.  If I keep this ring, I will keep looking to put it on when faced with difficult moments.  If I destroy it, no more excuses.  Life is tough, deal with it.
My concern is, if I do keep it, what will I look like in five years?  Will I be one of those people who lives in a house - windows all boarded up - filled with small animals in cages.  “Only you, Mr. Squirrel, understand me.  You know why sunlight is out to get me.”  I’ll build a fantasy play land for myself in the backyard.  Kids will ring my doorbell and run for their lives as I answer the door.
However, if I destroy the ring, I’ll have to lose a lot of excuses.  I’ll have to take care of myself even when I don’t feel like it, do that last load of laundry even though I just saw a commercial that reminded me of Lisa.  I have to engage back into life. I don’t know if I can emotionally destroy the ring. It’s a long trek to the far-off  land of Widow Mountain.  Do I have it in me to make that journey and destroy the ring?  Not sure. For now, I think I’ll just keep it in my pocket, where I can hold it and rub for comfort.  How bad can it be to keep it?
My precious, my precious.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012


“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.”
-Marcus Aurelius

It's a weird feeling.


Harmony with life and this sensation...this awareness, that at least at this very moment, you have no qualms with the world.

Of course Michael being dead is a constant that I'll always and forever wish I could change...but once you stop fighting the fate you've been handed...when you just give in to its can happen.




And who might freak you the heck out, because it's been such a foreign feeling for so long.

And like most foreign things, you might find yourself fighting it, because it's not what you have known since your love's death.

You may find yourself swimming up current.


Put your hands up and let the flow take you. Swoop you gently in the direction your heart always had the coordinates to.

And feel harmony.

If only for a day. A minute. A second.

And show yourself it is possible once more.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mini-me (Part 3001)

It's hard to believe my little guy was only 5 when his Dad died, and he was about 3 ft, he's pushing twelve, and will be taller than me in the next year. Ridiculous how quickly time passes and how quickly they change.

I finally got to see the rest of the wedding pictures last night and I was amazed to see Daniel's teenage face looking at me from so many pictures. Grayson has been looking so much like me lately that it was shocking how much he still looks like Daniel. It's more than just the looks though, it's the spirit.

In our wedding pictures, G was glowing with excitement and overflowing with enthusiasm. From his sweet face as he walked me down the aisle to his break dancing at the reception, he was a force of happiness that was a joy to watch. I noticed it at the wedding - as much as you notice anything at your wedding - but the pictures captured it for all time.

What an amazing gift. What mom wouldn't be worried that this kind of change would be a hard one? Getting a new family, moving schools and homes, changing your's all tough. I've been worried about him since we first started talking about it (who am I kidding? I've been worried about him since he was born!). It has been fantastic to watch him adjust so well and seem so happy. What a huge load off my mind.

Now, if I can just keep him from breaking any bones in sports.....(right, good luck with that one).

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The new girl in town

Hi. I'm Veronica. I'm the new girl in town here on Widow's Voice. Like most of you, I'm not the least bit thrilled to fall in any category to allow me such a role on this blog, but nonetheless, I am looking forward to walking through my grief journey will a community of people who get it. Let me tell you a little about me.

This is what my sweet little family looked like before tragedy struck unexpectedly in the form of a heart attack that took my wonderful husband and best friend Jeremy on a November 9, 2010 when he was at the very young age of 31. In addition, I was 28 and 6 months pregnant with our third child.

Needless to say, the last 16 1/2 have been quite the roller coaster for me. My life has been completely flipped upside down. Since Jeremy died, I had his baby without him, bought a house, lost my brother unexpectedly, and purchased a new vehicle. Lots of big milestones that have taken place without the one I love. Speaking of the one I love, I would like to tell you a little bit about my awesome husband, Jeremy.

Jeremy was the head of grounds at Rochester College, but also worked for our church as the Worship Leader there. He was a hunter and fisher, and full blooded Canadian through and through. He was stubborn, hilarious, sweet, handsome, loyal, and an incredible daddy and husband. He was my rock, my shoulder to cry on, my best friend, my anchor, my north, and my sanity. I can't bear to write out more of the horrible day, but you can read about it here.

Fast forward 16 1/6 months. I have come a long way, but this journey of grief for me is far from over. I continue to stumble my way through picking up all the broken pieces that were left behind in the shadows of the greatest loss I could have ever imagined. But my kids are happy, healthy, and still grieving in their own way too. And I have this sweet little face that Jeremy gifted me:

There ya have it. This is me. This is my family. This is my loss, my tragedy, my love, my story.
It's nice to meet you all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I was thinking yesterday about the day after Phil died. Revisiting that day makes my skin crawl, literally. Mentally I can now stand at a distance and watch myself try to out run the pain; walk around in circles hoping that once another full revolution is complete I'd wake up from the nightmare; and stare at each of my friends and family in turn seeking something in their face that would show me how I was going to live the rest of my life without Phil. There isn't enough mental distance available to protect my heart from the waves of pain that still radiate around that day. Every time I speak to a newly widowed person, I take that virtual journey back to day two of my widowed journey.

Janine is not writing today, because she is revisiting those early days as well. Her family is walking beside a young lady whose father died last week. He leaves behind a wife and family who are now living the first days of loss. She has asked me to ask you for prayers, good thoughts, and your supportive energy for this family, and for this man's wife. Not only for today, but for the journey ahead. If you could also stand beside Janine as she does her best to support these people she cares about, and walk beside her son who is watching someone he loves mourn her he mourned his.

August 29, 2005 I loved my life. September 1, 2005 I did not want to live the life that was traumatically dropped into my lap. On some level I knew I would find a way to make it through the days ahead, but I was certain those days would be devoid of both happiness and joy. All I could do was put one foot in front of the other, until I found you.

My widowed community (discovered on a crazy journey that is a whole other post) changed my life. I looked into faces that knew the pain I felt, and found a way to smile. I heard stories of both failure and success. Each widowed person I met had their own way of making the most of the life still ahead of them. I was awed, and inspired, and grateful. Because until I met people who outlived a spouse or partner and found the way through the searing pain into a life that was full and meaningful, I did not believe it was possible. 

Now, I believe. Not just for me, but for you. And for the family we've been asked to virtually support today. We are the living proof that surviving this brand of pain (sometimes I think of it as torture!) is possible, and they are going to need us. 

The best part about having a community like this is that you don't have to summon the energy to believe that goodness WILL return to your life, because you have a bunch of sisters and brothers (that you may never have met) who will believe it for you until you can believe it for yourself.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The funeral revisited

English: Comfort in Grief
Image via Wikipedia

She sat at the front of the church with her mother.
Swathed by relatives.
Confused between the false smiles of mourners  when they spoke to her and the shaking sobs of her mother in the seat next to her.
I watched as this little girl, dressed in pink tulle looked into the faces of everyone who came near her.
Watching as her mother, grandmother and aunties dissolved into tears before her, and her cousins displayed emotions ranging from nervous frivolity, to shock, to grief as they watched their mother's cry their way through their eulogies.
No doubt, wondering where her father was and exactly what was happening around her.

I looked into her five-year-old face from a distance.  Willing her to see me.  So she would know I was there.... that her teacher had come to her father's funeral....because I know how much it will mean to her later.


I went to the funeral of the father of my tiny year 1 student last week.....exactly 1 year, 11 months and 29 days after the kids and I sat huddled in the same position under similar circumstances: a car accident; a  father suddenly gone.

I remembered holding the hands of our children who had that same bewildered look on their little faces..... my son even younger than this little girl, my daughter only 1 year older.
I remembered smiling through the memories of his life as they played on the screen before us and wishing we'd taken more photos of each other.
I remembered trudging behind the casket as we followed six of his best mates out of the church, his body held shoulder high.
I remembered staring at my feet as they walked out of the church and watching as the casket was loaded into the hearse, not glancing up lest I see the faces of the hundreds of people who came.

....and I remembered how thankful my children were that their teachers had come to their Daddy's funeral.  Teachers who would soon become my colleagues and help hold me together as I began working again.  Teachers who would hold my kids together when they were angry at the world, and teacher who pushed them into learning and achieving.

...and I made a silent vow to this dead father whom I'd never met: I promise to look after your daughter to the best of my ability.  I promise to show her compassion when she needs it and I promise to push her forward and onward. I promise to be there for her for as long as she needs.

I promise.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

How Boring!

from here  
Two women I had just been introduced to the other day began to discuss their Valentine's Days with their husbands. They both agreed that it had been like any other day for them. One said she couldn't even remember what she and her husband had done and the other said that they'd just ordered in and watched a movie. "How boring!" they both agreed.

 They didn't know I was recently widowed. For all I know, they probably assumed I was married, too.

I stood there, frozen, wanting to take them both by their collars and pull them close to cry "WHAT I WOULDN'T DO FOR ANOTHER BORING VALENTINE'S DAY WITH MY DAVE!!!!"

I wanted to do that, but not in anger. I know that before Dave died, I made comments like that all the time. I was always grateful for our love, but I would make lighthearted, "Oh, we've been married since the dawn of time," comments to get laughs, or to commiserate with other married people. These women  weren't bitterly complaining. They were just commenting on how humdrum their longtime marriages had become.

It wasn't anger I felt at all. It was urgency and envy so strong it made my knees almost buckle. I wanted them to know that what they think is a boring night at home is what I now long for every moment of every day. 

To settle in, with your love, on the couch at the end of a hard day and know that you have each other, even when the rest of the world feels out to get you? To feel THAT again? I'd do anything.

I wanted them to know how much they'd miss that boring life if it were torn from them. How they'd feel the loss of that like a black hole in their gut. That they'd wish they'd gotten a million more of those boring nights at home.

But in the end, I didn't say a word. I stood there, stiff and awkward, and waited it out, like you do a painful cramp or bout of nausea. I didn't cry. I didn't run for home. I just went on with the night.

It's getting easier to wait those moments out, but they still slice into my heart and turn my mind into a spinning mess.

On the other hand, I'm relieved that those two women didn't know I was widowed. If they did, they might have self-consciously censored what they said in my presence, or at the very least, worried about saying something that might upset me. I can always feel that kind of tension in people around me. That discomfort is very understandable, but also palpable and in turn makes me uncomfortable too.

There was something a little comforting about being treated like anyone else, even though I still felt so separate from "everyone else" that I felt like a visitor from a different planet.

We all take things for granted, I suppose. We can't live every moment of every day being aware that we and those we love could die at any moment. It's too intense. We take our health for granted until it fails us. We take our freedom for granted until it's taken from us. We take our loved ones for granted until they leave us. That's just human.

But, I suppose there will always be a part of me that wants to shake people who are loved by a spouse and say "DON'T TAKE A MOMENT FOR GRANTED!" After all, that everyday, ho-hum moment they take for granted might be their last together.

What an important lesson to learn. Can it only be learned the hard way?